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The Doctor's Franchise Is In

Professionals are getting franchises of their own.

Ask any doctor or pharmacist, and he or she is bound to say the same thing: Over the past few years, medicine has become a business.

So it can't come as much of a surprise to see professionals in the medical industry branch out to the business world. While no one's suggesting that the multibillion-dollar fast-food industry or any other business clunked into the franchise mold is in danger of stiff competition from the medical field, the day may be coming when consumers can pull in for a quick physical across the street from the greasy spoon where they just pounded a triple cheeseburger.

Medical franchises are a trend, no question about it, says Don Boroian, chair and CEO of Francorp, a franchise development firm based in Olympia Fields, Illinois. Boroian says Francorp receives inquiries for franchises ranging from outpatient psychiatric centers to urgent care-oriented clinics. "The industry is cutting edge. We're doing a lot of work in that area."

"Medicine is no longer the science and profession it used to be," says Dr. Richard Anderson, a 44-year-old vascular surgeon and Veintec franchisee based in Dallas. "Everything's being scrutinized, from the medicine prescriptions you write out to how long someone's in the hospital. Franchising lets you practice your profession without all the constraints you have in your other practice."

Anderson and fellow vascular surgeon Andres Katz own and operate the Varicose Vein Clinic of Texas. Parent company Veintecis a business specializing in outpatient treatment for varicose and spider veins with additional franchises in Fort Worth and San Antonio.

The franchise, created 10 years ago in San Antonio by doctors David Mozersky and Alfred Laborde, allows for minor procedures to be performed in a comfortable setting under little or no local anesthesia. Although Anderson and Katz opened their franchise in August 2000 to a bit of a slow start, they've seen about a 50 percent increase in business since January. Anderson says he and Katz spend about 25 percent of their time at the clinic and 75 percent at their usual practice. If the business continues to grow, however, those numbers could flip-flop.

The moonlighting has its advantages: "We treated veins as a small part of our practice, and because we weren't really geared to treat them in a dedicated clinic, it made it more difficult and less satisfying to treat," Anderson says. "It got ignored. This has made it more satisfying to do."

The move into franchising makes sense when it's a field that interests executives and those with advanced degrees, says Jeff Allen, a franchising and strategic planning expert with Knowledge Development Centers in Tampa and Orlando, Florida. However, he adds that interest isn't always enough.

"You want to be successful, but at the same time you may not have a lot of business skills," Allen says. "It's definitely a transition. As an executive, you're used to having a very narrow specialty and working as a team with people who have various other specialties."

It's a transition that Charles Porter, R. Ph., mastered. Porter, who opened one of the first Medicap Pharmacies franchises in 1972, has seen the company blossom into a $291-million-a-year business with 177 franchises across the country. Now Medicap's corporate president and COO, Porter believes professionals ready to dive into the franchising world should be ready for life in the trenches, taking a hands-on approach to day-to-day operations. "A person with pharmacy skills but no business management skills," he warns, "may have problems."

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